Strategy #1 – Make the Customer Experience Better

With the high cost of customer acquisition, the easiest way to increase profitability is to develop one’s current customer accounts. Improving the customer experience through innovation, mass customization and customer intimacy programs is a key strategy many life science companies are pursuing. Innovation is not restricted to developing revolutionary new products. Innovation can also be incorporated in the ways customers find, buy and use your products. Here the importance of a supplier’s website cannot be overstated. Our surveys continually show that the website is the single most important way you can inform and influence your customer’s purchase decisions saving your customers time and making it easier for your customers to do business with you. This year, both Sigma-Aldrich and Life Technologies have unveiled new websites to improve the customer experience.

Sigma’s website is an excellent example of the way in which a website can deliver value by treating customers as “users” rather than visitors. The company’s website is an outstanding mix of useful content and powerful search functionality which goes far beyond the online catalog offered by so many suppliers. Its integration with the Ingenuity platform provides enhanced value to its customers as one researcher noted, “ [The website] has the broadest range of information and [its] link to Ingenuity helps to find RNAi products much faster.” Sigma also started offering content in local languages (including Chinese) to broaden its appeal to international audiences. The company recently reported that 50% of its research product sales are now made online.

Companies are also ramping up their efforts to have more direct contact with customers, One scientist told us of QIAGEN’s workflow solutions for genomics, “QIAGEN employs webinars, has extensive data online, as well as resources at one’s disposal to determine WHY I would want to use their products or services.  The related promotions and advertisements are what initially [attract] my attention.”  QIAGEN for example has experienced recent growth in the academic and pharmaceutical sectors, which it attributes to expanded direct sales efforts focusing heavily on the technical benefits of their products especially in the area of cancer research.

Many companies are engaging customers with more collaborative and consultative roles at the organizational level – particularly within pharmaceutical accounts. Companies like Thermo Fisher are bundling services and products to assist pharmaceutical companies in reducing costs while increasing efficiency, scientific innovation, and commercialization of new drugs. Scientists commended the company for its “competitive pricing on bulk items, “bundling of products, and “very good institutional discounts. Thermo Fisher competes with PerkinElmer and others in the managed services business area where a single supplier services instruments from multiple vendors. Thermo Fisher has taken this core concept farther and helps clients design new labs for maximum efficiency and scientists commend the company for its generous “new lab start-up packages”. The company holds a relationship with Eli Lilly and supports their clinical trials operations with materials manufacturing, packaging and labeling at Lilly’s technology center in Indianapolis. Suppliers who achieve this level of customer intimacy at an institutional level will have a clear advantage over those who do not. Both Thermo Fisher and PerkinElmer are also setting their sights on adjacent markets in chemical, environmental and industrial facilities.

Next up we’ll discuss ways in which companies are improving their competitiveness in their core markets.